Some 176 species of birds have been recorded for Dominica.
Fifty-nine of these live on the islands whilst a large percentage
migratory. The best known species are the two Amazona parrots, the
Sisserou (Amazona imperialis), and the Jaco (Amazona arausiaca) that
are found nowhere else in the world. These two parro
ts have been
listed on the IUCN’s Red Data Book which identifies those species
that are endangered or on the verge of becoming extinct. Another
species of interest is the Bule-headed Hummingbird (Cyanophaia bicoler)
which exists only on Dominica and Martinique. The very rare
Black-capped Petrel (Pterodroma hasistata), locally known
as the Diablotin and once thought to be extinct on Dominica, was sighted off
the South-east coast of the island in 1984. Dominica’s tallest
mountain, Morne Diablotin (4747 ft high) was named after that bird.*
Twelve species of bats, including
one that feeds on fish, make up the native mammalian
population. Of these one species(Myotis dominicensis) is endemic.
Three other genera ( Monophyllus Ardops and Brachyphylla) are endemic
to the Caribbean and exist on the island.This represents the higher
diversity in the lesser Antilles. These animals play a very important
role in the disper
sal of seeds, which is so necessary for Dominica’s
agricultural based economy. The other wild terrestrial mammals
including the Opossum (Diddelpphys marsupialis), the Agouti (Dasyprocia
anitillensis) and the wild pig (Sus spp) were introduced into
Dominica. The agouti and opossum are widespread throughout the island
and are heavily hunted during the open hunting season.
Nine species of lizards, four snakes and one totoise have been
recorded for Dominica. Of the nine lizards the Dominica tree lizard (Anotis
oculatus) and the Dominican ground lizard (Ameiva fuscata) are
endemic. Three others are endemic subspecies. The Boa constrictor that
can grow to a length of more than 10 feet is included among the four
species of snakes, which have been recorded on the island. The Iguana
(Iguana delicatissima) is a Lesser Antillean endemic that is
widespread over most of the island.
Four species of
sea turtles can be found in the waters of Dominica. However, only
three species regularly nest on the island’s beaches. Given the
rapid rate at which development and coastal defense projects are
taking place on the coast, the animals’ natural habitat is under
serious threat. The meat of the turtle is also a delicacy and is
therefore hunted extensively for food.
are laws in place that are designed to protect turtles. The law
specifically outlaws the taking of any turtle during nesting
activities on the shore.
Four Lesser Antillean endemic species of amphibians (the tree
frog Eleutherodactylus martinicensis, Eleutherodactylus amplinympha
and Eleutherodactylus johnstonei and the large crapaud or Mountain
chicken, Leptodactylus fallax) occur on Dominica. Eleutherodactylus
martinicensis is widespread and abundant at low to high elevations.
Eleutherodactylus amplinympha is endemic only to Dominica, and lives
at high elevations. The Crapaud or Mountain Chicken is widespread
although the species is heavily burned for sale on the local market.
This species also exists on the British Dependency of Monserrat.
Although the freshwater fish life of the island is not well
studied, some of
the well-known species include the mountain mullet ( Agonostomu monicola), the striped mullet (Murgilcephalus linaeus), and
the freshwater American eel amongst others. These species are caught
during the Open Season for fishing, especially in rural areas.
Eleven species of freshwater shrimps and twenty species of
freshwater and terrestial to semi-terrestial crabs have been recorded
for the island. Six species of crabs are found in or near the
seashore; three occur in less saline conditions and six others at low
elevations with swamps and mudflats. Two occur in wet areas further
inland and three away from surface water. There are no endemic species
and most are widely distributed throughout the Caribbean. Three of the
larger crabs (Guinotia dentata or Ciriques; Gecarcinus ruricola or
Black Crab and Cardisoma guanhumi or Swamp Crab) among the list, are
commonly caught for food since the flesh is a delicacy. Shrimps are
common in the island’s rivers. These include Atya innocuous, Atya
scabra, and Macrobrachium.
Dominica has a
rich and diverse plant life. It is possible that every major group of
plant life is represented on Dominica. These include over one thousand
species of flowering plants, and consists of orchids, palms, and other
trees, shrubs, vines, bromeliads, sedges, grasses etc. The island also
has almost two hundred species of ferns, fungi, mosses etc. A few
species are found only on Dominica.
endemic plant on Dominica is the island’s National Flower Sabina
carinalis or “Ewa Kwaib”. This small tree has a limited natural
range along parts of Dominica’s west coast. At least
3 other endemic plants(Chromolaena impetiolaris, Chromolaena
macrodon, Belseria petiolaris) and 3 new records (Spiranthes adnata,
Pteris grandifolia, Elaphoglossum smithi?) have been listed for
Dominica. These inhabit mostly the summits of Dominica’s tall
mountains, some of which reach up close to five thousand feet.
forests support a wide diversity of plants. Six distinct major
vegetation types have been recorded for the island. These include
Scrub Woodland; Rain
Forest; Montane Forest, Elfin Woodland; Littoral Woodland; Swamps and
This is located on the West Coast of Dominica. Conditions are
characterized by low rainfall, relatively short trees with prickly
stems and thick leathery leaves. The Agave family of plants, as well
as 5 species of cactus, do well here. The soils are considered to be
This forest type occurs between 1, 000-1,800 ft altitude, on
well drained soils with rainfall ranging from 150 inches to 250 inches
a year. The forest is dense with several strata (layers). The dominant
species are the Gommier (Dacyodes excelsa), Carapite (Amanoa caribaea),
Bois diable (Licania tertatensis) and Chataignier (Sloanea spp.) and
they range in height fomr 90 to 110 ft tall. Those forest types are
easily encountered whilst traveling in the south central interior and
Forms a narrow transition zone between the rain forest and the
Elfin Woodland. Conditions are characterized by high rainfall in
excess of 300 inches and shallow poor soils. The trees are shorter
(around 60 feet) and spindly, forming one strata, compared to that
which is found in the rain forest. The Rasinier Montagne (Podocarpus
cortaceus) can be found here. This forest type is widespread along the
central backbone of the island.
Occurring from 3,000 ft and over in elevation, this is the
highest of the montane vegetation types on Dominica. The conditions
are extremely wet, cloudy, and windy. Trees are very short, gnarled
and sometimes impenetrable. They are covered with a thick layer of
moss and other epiphytes. Most of the woody plants have thick leathery
leaves. Clusia venosa, ( Kaklin), with its gnarled contorted stem is
the dominant tree species.
As the term implies, conditions are characterized by a high
water table. They may be seasonal occurrences or perennial, with some
obstruction to natural drainage. In the freshwater swamp forests of
Dominica, a single species of tree Pterocarpus officinalis or “Bwa
Mang” dominates the ecosystem. Trees can and do grow to heights of
90 ft. Trees that occur here have developed an elaborate root system (
buttresses and breathing roots), that allows them to survive in these
tough conditions. Most of the swamp forests on Dominica can be found
at sea level where they form an estuarine system with coastal waters,
which serve as a nursery for juvenile fish. This forest type exists in
the Portsmouth/Glanvilla/Cabrits area, as well as at Calibishie and
Woodfordhill. There are also a few pockets of mangrove wetlands (
Black Mangrove and White Mangrove) in other areas of Dominica. These
exist at La Plaine, Salisbury, Temple (Wesley), Woodfordhill,
Hamsptead, and anse De Mai among other areas.
These can be found along the Windward or Atlantic side of the
island. The heavy, salt-laden winds, which blow from across the
Atlantic Ocean have served to fashion the tops of the trees away from
the wind. From a distance the trees appear to be well manicured. Few
trees are able to withstand such extreme saline conditions.*
The leaves are
thick and leathery. The most common trees, which do best under those
conditions, are the White cedar (Tabebuia pallida), Galba, (Callophylum
calaba), Sea grape (Coccoloba uvifera), Indian Almond (Terminalia
cattapa) and the Zicaque or Coco-plum (Chrysobalarrus icaco).
Dominica is a volcanic island. It has been determined that no
less than 8 dormant volcanoes can be found on the island and there is
a high level of volcanic activity, evidenced by the numerous hot water
vents and hot springs that can be found throughout Dominica. These
vents (openings) can also be seen beneath the sea. Even under those
high temperatures, very
sulphuric and acidic conditions, a certain type of plant community
known as Fumarole Vegetation has been able to adapt and survive The
Valley of Desolation, en route to the Boiling Lake (the largest
boiling lake in the world) and the Soufriere Sulphur Springs are
excellent areas to see this particular plant community. It consists
mostly of shrubs and sedges.
Assistant Forest Officer, Ronald Charles.
treatment and additional information, Forest Officer A. James.
information provided by the Permanent Mission of the Commonwealth of
Dominica to the OAS
Updated: 4 April 2008